Monthly Archives: September 2017

The Stone Angel

TravelManitoba

I remember being asked to read The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence back in high school. It was one of the many wonderful books that our English teacher used to try to infuse some humanity into our young minds. I don’t remember the story much, but I do remember the parallels between the old character in the book and the ultimate fate of Margaret Laurence. It’s like she literally became one of the characters she wrote about. I really should look into the Manawaka series again.

Speaking of Manawaka, my works will be displayed in the town it was based on, Neepawa, Manitoba.  When I used to go camping and hiking with my best friend, I remember visiting there once. Here in Asia, when people think of Canada, the first places that come out of people’s mouths are Toronto and Vancouver. But when they describe Canada, they would often imagine a place much closer to towns like Neepawa.

I love big cities like Vancouver and Ottawa, and even smaller ones like Winnipeg, but it is smaller rural towns cradling close to liberated Canadian wilderness that most people here in Asia often imagine. It is in many ways romantic. I guess like me, that image is mostly from the desire to escape from convoluted concrete jungles like Seoul.

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The Bechdel Test

Elephant

Take the Bechdel test and apply it to women in real life. You’ll find some women simply do not pass the Bechdel test despite being free from the skewed gender norms in fiction.

Take the test and change men to the person’s significant other, or perhaps their children. Now you have a nice little game waiting for the other person to say, “my wife” or “my kid.”

Keep nodding your head to show you’re paying attention.

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About Innocently Prodding Someone’s Bum

Saint

When it comes to childhood or child-rearing, some things just don’t translate to North America or just 2017 in general. I remember when I first came to South Korea, I was teaching English to young children. Some of the boys would play around shoving their fingers into each other’s bottoms, occasionally including mine. It was playful and not sexual at all, but in order to avoid any confusion, I discouraged it in class. I have my suspicion that it probably originated in some sort of sexual submission/domination dynamics, but I really don’t think the kids were thinking of that. It was horseplay. It was horseplay that was odd, and is probably less common now than it was even ten years ago.

The thing is this isn’t really a Korean thing, shoving things up bottoms as a form of horseplay. It is an Asian thing as far as I can tell. If I grew up in Japan, I probably would’ve had to deal with kancho. In Taiwan or China, I would probably deal with it under a different name. I remember having to deal with it as a young child. It wasn’t amusing back then. If anything, I always thought it was a throwback to when kids and people in general truly didn’t know any better. I didn’t put much malice in it. I just thought that the other person better wash their hands afterwards.

But it really doesn’t translate to North American countries. Not in Canada. Not at all. Kim’s Convenience tried to explain it to mixed results, and as much as I understand the practice and don’t want to be the straight person in the skit, it really does seem like a throwback. Even when the Korean character equated the practice to a wedgie, it didn’t really help the situation. When was the last time you got a wedgie? Even I am too old to experience the hilarity of giving and/or receiving wedgies when I was young. It was outdated back then, and it would be seen as cruel now. In fact, the only person who was interested in shoving things up my bum as a prank was my father, who I imagine used to play around with his peers that way when he was a child back in the 60s. Different environment, uncomfortable to put up with now, but I move on. It’s the same way I saw my young Korean students when they were keen on putting fingers up bums… different environment. I don’t want to be ethnocentric and tell them that it’s wrong or put malice into it; I just discouraged it like every other horseplay.

But in the same spirit of ethnocentrism, in Canada, we don’t shove fingers up children’s bottoms as a form of horseplay. It’s not that there’s malice in it, but it’s best to avoid doing it to prevent confusion. It’s not really wise trying to shoehorn questionable horseplay or pranks from other countries into North America when it could be interpreted differently, especially in this day and age. If an immigrant parent or grandparent does that to a child, and by some miracle, the child is okay with it, the neighbors, friends, or other relatives might not be. It’s best to avoid that confusion. There other aspects to one’s culture that are much better to pass on to the next generation, things that won’t get one suspected or arrested for abuse.

 

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Where I Understand Suspicion Against Foreigners

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The reason you don’t provoke North Korea is because you don’t want to give them any more incentives to build bombs. Everyone knows that the United States has the biggest military power in the history of mankind with a nuclear arsenal that could destroy the whole world multiple times. It is annoying to hear all of this tough talk against North Korea and appeasement, when the US’ mighty sword has not resolved clean victories and lasting peace in most of the conflicts it got involved in since the Vietnam War. Since Donald Trump got elected, he did nothing but casually hurl inflammatory rhetoric at North Korea and annoy US allies in the region. It is difficult not to argue that it has increased the North Korean zeal with its weapons program as well as encourage inflammatory rhetoric from the North as well.

It doesn’t matter if the US has the bigger bombs, or that it could mete out “fire and fury” at North Korea. Fire and fury has not resulted in the defeat of ISIS, despite Trump’s promise to rid of the group within days of his presidency. This is a ragtag guerilla group which the most advanced military might cannot seem to squash. Military victory is not gained purely on might alone. And the reason why South Korea is wise in being cautious with its approach with its neighbor is that not only would a war cause massive casualties and upend the rest of the eastern Asian region, it would also harm innocent North Koreans in the process. It’s not just because some North Koreans might be related to people in the South, but North Koreans are also human beings, people who have the right to live in peace.

And what is victory in a war with North Korea? A destroyed regime which will result in a power vacuum, perhaps resulting in an Asian version of ISIS? A humanitarian crisis with refugees fleeing the country? A ravaged South Korea and perhaps other major cities in Asia as well? A crippled China, one of the few countries with a growing economy that is fueling a significant portion of the world’s industries? It doesn’t sound like victory at all.

Talks of war against North Korea are gross and shortsighted. It would feel good to punch a fat bully in the teeth, but you don’t starve your neighbors and punch everyone else as well in the process. Most South Koreans don’t worry about nuclear war with the North. They’ve learned to live in the standoff. It is only the US’ rhetoric that is making things a whole lot worse and war with the North that much closer. The Koreas have already suffered countless of times due to foreign powers. This was way before the two Koreas were divided because of the US and the Soviet Union, the reason why South Koreans have traditionally looked at foreign influences with trepidation. Again, North and South Korea is being threatened due to the meddling of foreign influences.

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